Government has committed to giving renewed attention to supporting business growth in the taxi industry, especially initiatives that empower previously disadvantaged individuals such as women.

Addressing the National Taxi Lekgotla virtually on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the industry is one of the most important sectors in the economy, which makes it all the more necessary that there is transformation and empowerment with real benefits to the businesses involved.

“We share a common aspiration to see the minibus taxi industry overcome its challenges, adapt in response to the demands of modern public transportation, and ultimately to grow and thrive. At the heart of all our endeavours is formalisation, regulation and economic empowerment,” the President said.

The two-day lekgotla, which is taking place in Boksburg, is facilitating discussions among the taxi industry and key stakeholders in a bid to formalise the taxi industry

It is meant to address challenges facing the industry and achieve consensus on the blueprint of the future taxi industry anchored on formalisation and a subsidised industry, as an integral part of a broader economic empowerment model.

“Given its financial size, formalising the taxi industry is a vital step towards ensuring its contribution to the national tax revenue base.

“And importantly, formalisation will benefit not just operators but workers who will be able to benefit from social support like the Unemployment Insurance Fund and training funded by the Skills Development Levy,” the President said.

He said the lekgotla must be a turning point for an industry that is too often associated with disregard for the rule of law and the rules of the road, the abuse of customers and conflict.

“We must seriously and honestly confront the associations of the taxi industry with sexism and gender-based violence. We must work together, as government and all industry stakeholders, to ensure that women are safe – and feel safe – when travelling by taxi,” the President said.

He said all forms of public transit must be integrated to allow people to seamlessly make use of all modes available.

“Our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan sets out a number of interventions to spur economic activity, to create jobs and to embark on a renewed industrialisation path. If we are to meet the targets we have set ourselves, an efficient, safe and reliable public transport system will be key to transport the workforce,” the President said.

He said it is only through an integrated system that the country will able to offer the best value for money and convenience to the public.

Taxi industry called to address challenges

The President encouraged the industry to address several challenges that have tarnished its reputation.

These include the issue of labour relations and allegations of exploitation of workers; the high number of road accidents involving taxis; the industry’s response to the rise of e-hailing services; and compliance with tax laws. 

“We also need to address the conflict relating to competition over routes and the associated acts of violence and criminality. Just as the industry must itself address and overcome issues of safety and violence, we as government remain committed to driving interventions that strengthen the industry,” the President said.

Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, said realising the formalisation, regulation and empowerment of the industry, will be the game changer required to fundamentally transform the face of South Africa’s public transport system.

“It is evident that despite government intervention to support the taxi industry through numerous initiatives, the industry is still characterised by oversupply, decreasing revenue, poor infrastructure and uncontrolled competition on routes. This has become a source of ongoing conflict and violence,” the Minister said.

Mbalula said unity in the industry is sacrosanct and the perverse incentives for conflict and violence must be eliminated.

“The pact we must emerge with out of this lekgotla must demonstrate the seriousness with which we regard this matter. It is time the taxi industry spoke out against violence and proclaim for all to hear, not in our name,” the Minister said.

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